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Windows 11 dev tools make creating apps easier than ever

Windows 11 Start Surfacepro
Windows 11 Start Surfacepro (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has several developer tools to help create apps for Windows 11.
  • Improvements include a tool for making PWAs out of web apps and new features for native apps.
  • Project Reunion is now known as Windows App SDK, and it allows developers to integrate Windows 11 features into apps while still targetting Windows 10.

Microsoft's announcement of Windows 11 has created plenty to digest. With its announcements, the company showed a recommitment to developers and the Microsoft Store. There's a new Microsoft Store, support for Android apps, and new tools for developers that make it easier to get apps into the store. A post from Microsoft titled "What Windows 11 Means for Developers" outlines the refined approach to getting apps onto Windows.

There are five key areas that Microsoft worked on to ease and improve app development:

  • The new Microsoft Store;
  • Improvements in end-to-end Web development;
  • New features coming for native Windows apps;
  • The Fluent design system and WinUI; and
  • What's new for game developers.

The new Microsoft Store makes apps more discoverable, including a new Stories feature and a "pop-up" store that makes it easier to install apps when people find them through the web. Support for Android apps through the Amazon Store also allows more types of apps to be found through the store. Importantly, new revenue options allow developers to make more money if they have their own commerce platform.

I cover these more in-depth in my piece on why Windows 11 is a win for developers, so I'll focus more on the actual tools that are available for devs here.

Microsoft has a new tool called PWABuilder3. With it, you can build a progressive web app (PWA) out of a web app in minutes. The tool also helps you know if your PWA is ready for the Microsoft Store.

Windows 11 includes support for WebView2 (opens in new tab) runtime, which makes it easier to build hybrid apps. With it, you can use the Microsoft Edge (Chromium) platform to bring web experiences into native apps. WebView2 is known as an "evergreen" tool, meaning it receives automatic updates. This means that apps made utilizing the platform are easier to keep up to date in terms of security. There is a fixed version available if developers have certain compatibility requirements.

Media Progressive Web App Shortcuts Integrated With Windows

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft's Project Reunion is still around as well, though it is now known as Windows App SDK. It makes it easier to integrate Windows 11 features into apps while also being able to target PCs running Windows 10. Windows App SDK 0.8 is available now, and version 1.0 will come out later this year.

Developers that want to refresh their app design can use WinUI3. The tool will allow developers to implement UI elements such as rounded geometry, new icons, new typography, new animations and interactions, and a refreshed color palette.

Microsoft also highlights that Reunion Windowing works with existing app code and lets you add functionality to desktop apps, including light-dismiss behavior, picture-in-picture mode, and easier title bar customization.

Auto Hdr Windows

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Moving over to game development, Microsoft is making its Game Development (GDK) publicly available. It includes common tools, libraries, and documentation for building PC games. The company points out that thousands of developers already use the GDK to make games for PCs.

The GDK also adds the Game Stack (opens in new tab) collection of technologies, which help devs build, publish, and monetize games at scale.

Windows 11 also supports several technologies previously only available on consoles, including DirectStorage. We detail these options more in our piece on how Windows 11 is built for gamers.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

1 Comment
  • Finally, got round to sitting down for an hour and watching the entire dev stream : https://youtu.be/egZ82QGshX8 and i am liking what I am seeing. In regards to GDK, there are two tiers GDK and GDKX - the latter is for commerce, distribution and direct xbox testing (licenses required).